So preoccupied with my own things, I hadn't thought about giving back, until four days before Thanksgiving, when my dad gave me a tip about an event honoring military personnel in basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Academy just north of Chicago.
Thanksgiving with the Navy, a Thanksgiving day for these young recruits away from the base, for bowling, for dinner. It's run by a veteran named Don, an Air Force airmen level 3 who served in Vietnam. After his experiences coming home, he vowed to honor the mem and women in the armed forces and 21 years ago, he came up with the idea to honor them with Thanksgiving dinner.
I'm a creature of habit. I have to workout before I do anything else, or I have to starting working on my books by 1pm. Spontaneous, I'm not. It was four days from Thanksgiving, I was hosting 14 people at my house; I had things to do.
But it was a worthwhile story to investigate. And after contacting my dad's client Lori, an owner of the Wauconda Bowl, I scheduled a time to meet with her, Don and Lisa, who runs the Thanksgiving dinner at the Moose lodge.
It was a touching conversation with all three organizers. Lori's son served in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s. Lisa's brother served in Grenada and Don was injured in Danang, Vietnam. We had a conversation about their connection to the military, their family sacrifices, their worry for their loved ones.
Thanksgiving day starts with 100 volunteers on motorcycles, many retired military, escorting the bus filled with Navy recruits, to Wauconda where the young men and women are walked through town, honored by participants of the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, and walked to the 9/11 memorial at the center of town.
From there, the recruits are taken to the bowling alley, opened by Lori, where they spend the morning bowling, eating donuts, chatting with the volunteers and former members of the military. Phones and computers are donated for the day so recruits can call home, or check Facebook or simply connect with friends and family.
There is no political parties, no rancor, only Americans doing something nice for other Americans during one of the most depressing times of the year; they holidays without family. The event in itself is a simple act of kindness.
I'm a writer. To use my talent in the best way possible would be to give this amazing group of people the recognition they deserve. Not so much to give them the kudos for being selfless on Thanksgiving, but to also help them secure donations, to get their message to media and in doing so, encourage others to give of themselves, even if they're like me; creatures of habit who work very hard to go “off script.”
The little I did, was interview the organizers and show up the day of the event for an hour speaking with them, meeting some of the participants and other volunteers.
But what effects me so profoundly was at the end of the meeting on the Tuesday before the event, was speaking with Don, thanking him for his time and his service and assuring him, I will do my best to find an outlet for the story and I hoped that I could do the story justice. He nearly cried when he thanked me for what I was doing.
I wasn't expecting that.
Sometimes you take on a project for one reason and end up with a totally different perspective. I hope in the end I can do them justice and help out, if only for a day.
I left with a little disappointment floating around my head. It wasn't what I had expected to be doing after a trip to Wizard World, one of the many comic cons that spring up every year. It could have been a totally cool conversation with a with an actress from a show that inspired my characters; the strong female character.
I fell in love with Buffy. The characters, the story arcs, the development and most importantly, I was impressed by Joss Whedon and his ability to create these real women. Women who are strong, who fall and pick themselves up and write their own rules.
I explained to Charisma Carpenter, the actress who played Cordelia Chase, how much I loved the show, the female strong female characters. I proclaimed my admiration for their creator, Joss Whedon and how his characters were the blueprint for how I developed my own characters.
She expressed her congratulations on my writing my books but asked me what I thought about the Joss Whedon news that had recently come to light.
I had no idea.
Charisma shared the news that while Joss was married, it is alleged he had multiple affairs and asked about my thoughts on that. My first thought, I could separate the two. The man who was raised by a feminist. A man who was a self-proclaimed feminist, who won many awards for his work.
But can I really separate the two?
It was disappointing to say the least. I had admired him for so long. What I felt was his true work, spoke to me, inspired me as I wrote about Annie Pearce., developing her in a way that made her a real woman, a strong woman. Buffy Summers as my model. Was it all fake?
As I grapple with the meaning of this news, I still feel that how Joss Whedon wrote women, was spot on. They feel real, they are relatable, and beautiful and smart and they each have flaws and issues and problems they face. Just like me. Just like my characters. That for me is real.
Is he entitled to write them? Yes he is. Do I have to admire him? I can admire the work that he has done. The characters that mean so much to me, but I no longer admire the man the way that I once was. He isn't perfect. But then, either am I. He doesn't have to apologize to me and I can still watch and love the characters that were created. Maybe some day I'll have different thoughts. For now, I'll move on to what's most important to me. Saying what I need to say about myself as a woman with dreams and goals. And maybe in the future, I should create my own blue print for the strong female character. I think I can do that.
Even social media is difficult for an introvert, who oftentimes lacks basic confidence. So what's an inspiring author supposed to do when she needs to recruit strangers to help with a social media campaign?
You pretend you're not shy, or an introvert and you fake yourself out, acting as though you really have no problem making conversation with totally random strangers.
But they weren't so random, the locations were selected carefully. We wanted cool., comfortable, roomy enough to spread out our stuff; the camera equipment, the books, the giveaways, the props.
But I had to recruit, dig deep and walk up to the ones I wanted. The kids that looked like they might like an urban fantasy, who weren't so engrossed in conversation it would be a complete intrusion.
With a deep breath and a lot reserve, I introduced myself as if I owned it, as if I exuded confidence and asked for what I wanted. The first guy gracefully declined, he was meeting someone soon. I thanked him for his time and moved on.
It was a perfect location. a coffee shop. There were four of them, twenty something's out on a Sunday afternoon. Some with backpacks and homework, all of them with their phones. I was surprised how willing they were to have their pictures taken. They graciously did as we asked as my friend and photographer Jim took their pictures.
In exchange, I gave them copies of book one, The Day of First Sun. I gave them some swag. They were nice and they seemed to enjoy the surprise in their day, something different, something unique.
The funny thing is, I always tell people I'm an introvert. Which I probably am, until I find myself in a perfectly comfortable situation. A happy place, where I do what I love, in a place where I'm passionate for what I do. Maybe all those times I thought I was shy and unable to do things is because I really didn't find that thing I loved, or I forgot what it was that I wanted to be when I grew up.
I seemed to have found my confidence, my strength. When I write, when I talk about my books, when I attend book fairs, those things I once thought were scary aren't so much anymore. I'm drawn to the life of an author and I look forward to the experience that comes with it.
Come see me at the Printer's Row Lit Fest on June 10th and 11th.
And for the first time I'll be attending the Ann Arbor Book Festival on June 17th. I can't wait to meet you. I can't wait to share.
It's a writer's journey from book conception, to editing and rewriting, through the process of trying to sell your books. Here's my recent entrée into my up and down journey.
That Moment in Time – When it felt time to have my first child, I knew it, and approached it as inevitable. But my next steps in life didn’t follow a straight path, it jerked sideways and turned out nothing like I imagined it would. For more about my article about the loss of my daughter Stephanie Paige check out Modernmom.com or Besteveryou.com
I've been very luck the last two weeks. I've had some amazing book reviews about Black Market, the second book in the Wizard Hall Chronicles. It's amazing to see how others view the story and the themes and in honor of the End of Women's History Month, I wanted to share the book reviews about Black Market and how Annie Pearce embodies female empowerment. Check them out on the following website.
I've been around for seven years, tirelessly working to bring my books to the public, share the stories I love so much. Find a platform that inspires others and garner a bit of publicity.
As I worked with a publicist to bring my new book to market, she became aware of a new angle to find an audience. I had an opportunity to write an article about one of the most difficult times in my life; the death of my daughter. It is an emotional experience that I'm willing to share with others, because I have a unique insight. It's also a form of publicity, one in which I benefit in unexpected ways.
The article really wrote itself. Words flew from my brain and out my finger tips and on to the screen. I was nervous to open up and put it all out there, but I did it and it reminded me of the struggles, of the love and of the loss.
This is about turning tragedy in light and love. I put it all out there and opened myself up, freeing myself.
I had no idea in my quest to get noticed, would be helped by writing what I knew. Faced with my past and the memories that linger was a welcome pit stop on my quest to write books for a living. I got something so much more.
It was a story that needed to be told. Memories, feelings, scents, so vivid when I retell the story. I needed to finally stand up and speak out and tell the story.
There's so much more out there, and not so much time. But on the anniversary of my daughter's death looming closely, I realize that I shouldn't hide what had happened, I should embrace this as part of my life, and yes, even use what I've experienced to help sell books.
It is what shaped me and makes me who I am. All I can do is open up and let it all hang out.
Find me in cyperspace at the following links:
Modern Mom: Of Life, Loss and Finding Joy http://www.modernmom.com/?s=sheryl+steines
Besteveryou.com: Of Life, Loss and Finding Joy http://www.besteveryou.com/single-post/2017/03/16/Of-Life-Loss-and-Finding-Joy
Goodmenproject.com Black Market Review https://goodmenproject.com/arts/black-market-blends-worlds-together-jsnk/
As an independent author, I'm always searching for ways to create news events. Those events that bring my books to the public. I've sat at book fairs, and comic
cons. There were advertisements, and book catalogues. Who can forget the tweeting and sharing on social media? I can't tell you how many marketing promos have led to free Kindle Fires for participating bloggers that I've given away. All in all, the results have been varied.
Now I'm looking for new ways to create news events that are different, fun and worthwhile.
Opportunities come from anywhere, by simply retweeting and sharing an author's book posts. Or aggressively advertising on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe a friend direct messaged an opportunity based on a shared interest. Or sometimes you just stumble across something interesting, different and new.
Where the idea is born doesn't matter, as long as you seize the opportunities as they cross your path. You never know where it could lead.
So when you say yes to the news events as you find them, in time you share those websites and links with others to spread the news. Please, visit and share these sites and the great work these bloggers and reviewers do.
Trisha Sugarek, Writer at Play: MY BLOGS feature INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! Did you miss the past few months? November was best selling author, Grace Burrowes and in December, Reed Farrel Coleman, contributing writer for Robert B. Parker series. January is Dinah Jefferies and February’s author is Sheryl Steines.
Midwest Book Review: “Established in 1976, the Midwest Book Review is an organization committed to promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. The MBR publishes the following monthly book review magazines specifically designed for community and academic librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public:”
ThreeifbySpace.net: Need a Good Read? Books by Outlander Fans Fill the Bill
“We’re a reading bunch. I like big books, and I cannot lie… of course, we all love Diana’s books (or why else are we here!), but many of her fans are authors themselves. And since November is the month to turn yourself into an author – it’s NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month – it seemed appropriate to introduce you to some Outlander fans who have taken that big leap and put out their talent for you to enjoy. Here’s a good selection of books written by fellow Outlander fans that are available to purchase and read (some of the books are free for Kindle users!) – support your friends! This is, I’m sure, not a complete list – if you have a published (self or traditional) book, feel free to leave info in the comments! Click on book titles to learn more and buy?” by Erin Conrad https://www.threeifbyspace.net/2016/11/need-good-read-books-outlander-fans-fill-bill/
Attending THE book fair as a child for me was a special memory. Filling out the order for my newest Judy Blume. It came back to me in full force when I attended Book Expo America as an adult and a writer trying to gain traction. It brought me to tears as I walked into the building, up the stairs and into the ginormous hall that would be home for the next four days.
Sometimes it feels like a step forward is the most important step you can make and everything, I mean EVERYTHING rides on that event. It's how I attended the Book Expo America Book Fair last week.
I had to do well and overcome my introversion, speak to everyone who passed within earshot of my booth and meet that one person. Only that would make this worthwhile, nothing short of meeting THAT person would do.
Sometimes we have predetermined expectations or hopes for an event. It doesn't always work out as we plan. Though I met several small publishers, publicists and bloggers, it wasn't what I hoped for. It was something worthwhile.
When you see inside the industry up close and personal, you can see your faults and stifle the tears, or you can see your strengths and walk with your head held high. It was an emotional whirlpool that made me want to keep pushing forward or quit all within a matter of minutes.
What I did instead of let the fear and loathing bring me down, I spoke with other writers, shared information and experiences, encouraged others and took A LOT of notes.
It wasn't what I expected when I signed up, but the experience left me with a sense that the future is still within my reach, I just need to stretch a little longer.
In the Chicago area, come find me at the Printer's Row Lit Fest, June 11-12.Continue reading
I realize I lack confidence. I've never thought of myself as pretty. I just wasn't one of THOSE girls when I was a kid.
Okay. It's never really been an issue until after having kids. The body changes, the extra weight. And recently gained weight due to some heavy stress, I've feel very uncomfortable in my own skin.
I want more for myself and my children, than the constantly being down on myself because the days are long, the years are short and we should spend those short years with the people, things and events that make us happy. Whether that's time with friends and family, sometimes, just taking are of yourself, reminding yourself that your more than a wife, mother, writer, friend is something you need to do. And taking yourself out of your comfort zone, finding new challenges, reinventing yourself, that might be just the thing you need.
Being part of a photo shoot might not be considered fun for people, or useful or have enough substance, but I like to dress up. I like shoes, purses, and makeup. I don't apologize for being a girly girl. That's who I am. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped at the chance to do something a little different. Honestly, I hate taking selfies and I don't put myself in front of cameras often because I'm overly critical of how I look, but this intrigued me. This was different.
I found Bomber Betty Makeup, the way other people get recommendations. I asked my friends on Facebook for a recommendation for a makeup artist. I needed a headshot for the Wizard World Website and that's when I met Jessica Sawicki.
After explaining my needs, we set an appointment time and she came to my house. I've never had my make up done, not like this. It was custom, all for me, and I looked great, if I do say so myself. I loved the make up so much, I've been buying it since 2o10.
One day I received an email about a vintage photo shoots. I was intrigued by the glamorous clothing, fun vignettes, and best of all, hair, make up and me time.
I borrowed a dress, circa 1960 and that led to the hairstyle and makeup looks.
I was hesitant when I first saw the hair. Without make up I felt a little school marmish and even considered taking it down. Rather than freaking out, I gave myself time in the make up chair and let Jessica fuss and dab and powder and perfect my face. As the look came together, I saw the vision and frankly, I couldn't stop looking at myself. I'm not generally vain like that. But my skin was clear, the circles under my eyes gone. I no longer looked stressed or felt rushed and the colors were where colors should be. I smiled and felt good, I felt beautiful and even after the photo shoot, I couldn't stop looking at myself. It was weird, it was a strange feeling to look in the mirror and see such a different me. Shall I say confident?
A do realize we shouldn't need a full face of make up and fancy clothes to feel pretty. But what that day did for me was remind me that I'm kinda special and I deserve some quality time alone with me. I'm good, I'm smart and I'm capable. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.
I will say, the below picture. The toughest, most uncomfortable shot for me. Either I never knew how to flirt, or I simply forgot how.
Below photos with vintage beauty products. I'm actually sitting on a old hair dryer chair.
Monsters keep us awake at night, they haunt our dreams. That could be said of agents, those people who make or break the writer based on their judgement of not so much our work but our presentation of our work in three short paragraphs. To be fair to the agents, they receive thousands of queries a week, an insurmountable number to weed through and for us as writers, if we don't have an engaging, insightful, thrilling query letter, that agent won't see more of us than that.
It's not the part of the process that infuriates me the most, it's the after they read our work and the notes they make and give to us. I have a friend who's trying desperately to find an agent. She's had several read her work and each of them has given her various story changes that they feel she needs to make and maybe they might be interested. She's made updates and restructured the book and is less comfortable with the story than she was when she first began the process. I've suggested she stick with her original vision, because unless the agent picks her up as a client, she'll be working to please everyone and you simply can't do that.
My experience is different. I've had one agent and apparently her assistant read my book She Wulf. It's similar in that you can't please everyone so what is a writer to do? I attended a self publishing event several years ago and had an agent and an editor review my book. Needless to say my experience with the agent didn't work as I had hoped. First I was assigned to an agent who had no interest in Science Fiction or Fantasy. So after pitching my book idea, she basically told me that you can't do that. Time travel is science fiction, magic is fantasy and the two can't co-exist in the same book. I nearly cried as she told me my work was wrong. In the end she asked me to forward the manuscript to her, which I hesitantly did, and in the end, nothing came of it. If you know anything about the process of finding agents, you always send manuscripts to agents requesting your specific genre.
I must admit, I nearly walked out of the event, no longer interested, wishing the earth would open up and swallow me whole. But I stayed anyway and listened to the editor, an editor of science fiction and fantasy. She liked the few pages that I had sent to the event organizers and felt I had something there, giving me hope that maybe I do.
So agents are my Monday Monsters because they can make us feel inches tall, can twist us in knots and make the experience that much more unpleasant. But what I came away with is that for those agents resistant change, we might get a skewed view of our work. Publishing is changing. Books no longer need to be shelved and labeled in one category. Writers can bring their wildly brilliant stories to life on the pages in any manner they choose. As writers we need to trust our visions and stand up for them. Yes, agents know what sells, but we also know what we like to read, and only our persistence and strong belief in ourselves and our work can take us as far as our imagination.
I hope I remember that as I enter another year of scratching toward that goal.Continue reading
I’m either the best mom ever or I’m spoiling my kids and will live with the consequences forever. Or maybe I’m really just a big old geek and like to drag my kids along to things like Wizard World Chicago.
And to think, there are Comic Cons all over the world, big, crowded and entertaining, all about celebrating love of the genre. It all started with a man named Shel Dorf a comic book enthusiast who in the sixties, envisioned a one day convention celebrating that love. He held his convention in 1970 and called it “Triple Fan Fairs,” in Detroit. It was that convention that later moved to San Diego, becoming the juggernaut that it is today.
What once celebrated super heroes inside the pages of comic books has since grown into this all-encompassing entertainment fest. Not just for the geeks anymore, even people like me who once sat on the outside looking in, who enjoyed yet not fully embraced all that the genre involved, can now become excited to the point of nausea if the right item, actor or character crosses my path. Who knew seeing Jayne’s ugly knitted cap would make me laugh to the point I nearly bought one for myself and now I simply regret not coming home with one. Seriously they were all over the hall. Still scratching your head, think Firefly. Still don’t know it, you need to watch one of the best cancelled shows ever.
It’s about enjoying and taking it all in. Getting your picture taken with the actor who plays Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead. Yes we stood in line for an hour to get our picture taken, or seeing John Barrowman, the Captain Jack signing autographs and jumping in line, because really who doesn't want to meet him. And of course I told him I was a HUGE fan. That's what I said? Well duh. Why else would I be there. I’m such a dork… It's seeing the costumes of the characters that you enjoy so much and chasing them around the hall just to snap a picture. Well my daughter did, but I kinda made her do it. Yeah. That's Wizard World. And it's the regret of not having met a favorite character or buying that soft kitty plush toy, you know the one that sings that song…
But if you stop and examine it the phenomenon, really think of them, the artists, the writers, the creators, as visionaries, their ability to imagine the world as a different place,. A world that inspires others to create what they’ve dreamt up. And we love them. It's a chance to play, to imagine and celebrate behind the doors of comic con. Embrace your inner geek.Continue reading